8 August 2012

Words without Meaning

Traditional occultism is steeped in layers upon layers of symbolism. But symbols can be problematic. They are man-made constructs, the realisation of which may hinder some from truly 'believing' in them. And in the endless multitude of symbols available to us these days, it can be hard to find a set that feels right. It is far too easy to spend hours upon hours contemplating the meaning of symbols instead of actually doing something with them.

It might be better in some cases to think in terms of function rather than meaning. What is the essential function of, say, simple rituals like the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram or pagan circle castings? Their role, as I see it, is to cause a shift in states of mind, from everyday existence to a spiritual state. Concepts of elements, mysterious deity names or complex theoretical presentations of the universe have, in the end, very little to do with the desired effect. It is the act of recital and motioning that counts.

10 June 2012

An Invocation of Darkness

I am the rustling of darksome wings
I am the screaming of unseen things
I am the infinite beauty of night
I am the shadow encircling the light
I am the ravening creature of lust
I am the lover of ruins and of rust
I am the fury, the breath of the storm
I am the creeping mist without form
For I have drunk of Its ichor like wine
The power of Darkness itself is mine!

7 June 2012

A Simple Circle Casting

This is a simple formula for a circle casting. It is based on segments of verse originally written by Wiccan author Doreen Valiente, for the verse version of the 'Great Rite' (i.e. a symbolic conjoining of male and female), which is also the third degree initiation in Gardnerian Wicca. While of Wiccan origin, I don't see any reason why these lines could not be adapted for use with any theology (and neopagan faiths in particular). The words aren't originally part of a circle casting ritual, but the segments I've borrowed seem to be perfect for just such a thing.

The 'circle casting' is basically just a Wiccan term for the Ritual of the Pentagram, which originates from the Victorian occult society Golden Dawn. The main difference compared to the generic pentagram ritual is that Wiccan circle castings, as the name suggests, usually include the distinct act of tracing a circle around the working space (whereas in the pentagram ritual a circle is implied as the magician moves his tool from quarter to quarter). It is generally used as the opening part of a ritual, and could be followed by more specific acts of magick, celebration of a particular holy day, or merely simple meditation or prayer.

30 May 2012

The Chthonic, the Celestial and the Cosmic - Conceptions of Divinity

Supernatural entities are often divided into multiple categories. For instance in Greek mythology, the division between chthonic and Olympian deities (with differing cult practises) is pretty common. Here are some thoughts about such categories, and how one could interpret different types of deities from a more modern perspective.

God and Goddess Pentagrams

The pentagram is of course one of the most widely used occult symbols. There are many, many ways to interpret its symbolism, and no interpretation is any more or less correct than another.

I've previously written about the downward pointing pentagram as a symbol of the Qabalistic Tree of Life. But here's another, very simple suggestion, with some Wiccan flavour: the downward pointing pentagram represents the Horned God, while the upward pointing pentagram represents the Goddess.

Associating the pentagram with two points upward with a horned figure is of course blatantly obvious. It is of course particularly associated with the figure of the goat's head, as in the so-called Sigil of Bathomet, used as the symbol of the Church of Satan. But the goat is of course equally associated with pagan Pan, there is no reason whatsoever to view it as Satanic, let alone 'evil'.

The pentagram with one point upward, on the other hand, is sometimes associated with the human body, traced inside the symbol with arms cast wide open. This welcoming pose seems perfect for the Goddess.

Individual points of the pentagrams don't really need specific associations of themselves, I think. No need to overly complicate things, particularly when it comes to more down-to-earth pagan practises. (Although if you wish to use correspondences, such as the traditional elements, by all means do.)

17 February 2012

Bríd - Goddess of Computers?

Just a little, light-hearted thought exercise (though it could certainly have practical implications, if so inclined).

The Irish goddess Bríd (or Brigid) has been described as both a goddess of poets and of blacksmiths.

Now, blacksmiths deal, in a very literal sense, with hardware. Poets deal with language.

What do you get when you bring together hardware and language? Computer systems! Software! Programming!

Technology has become an integral part of our culture and the very core of our being. Yet most mythological figures obviously don't have a clear connection with this modern reality. Deities of wisdom might be among the most obvious to call on for IT issues, but then again, computers are intricate physical objects as well. It wouldn't be a great leap to associate them with magickal items of myths, and the gods of smithing who often created such things. Technology is magick, in a very real sense.

16 February 2012

What's in a Name?

It is ancient wisdom that names hold power. But for the modern neopagan they can also be a source of much confusion and distress. This mainly stems from what I've termed the 'authenticity dilemma'. In a nutshell, we borrow elements from distant cultures, far removed in time and/or space, yet their distance means we can never be sure of how they were originally understood or worshipped.

This shouldn't really matter. The pagan world was, by its nature, quite syncretistic. The history of religion and myth is littered with examples of deities being supplanted, combined, and reinvented. In most instances there simply is no single, authentic version. Unless you're interested in a strict reconstruction of a historical practice (and I kinda feel sorry for anyone who is, making any kind of sense out of historical pantheons is no easy task), this chould be viewed as license to make whatever you will of your deities. But sometimes it is easier said than done.

Below I'll briefly discuss some possible approaches to deity names, and problems related to them.

13 February 2012

Identifying Hurdles on the Path to Spirituality

The age we live in is an age of free thought, free knowledge, and free speech. It is an age of science and empiricism. The nature of modern society grants us access to many, many more options when it comes to spiritual journeys than our ancestors had, but it can also make encountering the spiritual more difficult.

In this article I'll discuss some of the possible motivational hurdles on the path to spiritual experiences, based on my personal experiences. Solutions may sometimes be obvious, but often are not. However, merely recognising that these problems have existed in my own past attempts to explore the spiritual is an important step that may, hopefully, eventually lead to an understanding of religion and magick that has both personal meaning and longevity.

Hornèd Hunter of the Night

The 'Witches' Rune', a chant originating from Gardnerian Wicca, refers to the Wiccan God with the very apt line 'Hornèd hunter of the night'.

The most often cited influences for the Wiccan God are Cernunnos and Pan, two of the best known European 'horned god' figures.

Queen of Heaven, Queen of Hell

The 'Witches' Rune', a chant originating from Gardnerian Wicca, contains the line 'Queen of heaven, queen of hell,' referring to the Wiccan Goddess.

At first glance, the reference to heaven and hell may appear disconcertingly Christian to modern pagans. But the concepts are of course much older and more universal than the Christian concepts. Personally, I interpret the phrase as meaning 'Goddess who is both astral and chthonic'.

9 February 2012

The Witches' Rune and Other Wiccan Rhymes

In traditional Wicca there's a poem known as the 'Witches' Rune', which is often chanted as part of the opening part of rituals, possibly accompanied by a dance. It was originally written by Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, and can be found for example in Janet and Stewart Farrar's Eight Sabbats for Witches.

Skimming through books for possible material to use in rituals, I happened again upon this poem that in the past I'd mostly ignored, and found it somewhat appealing. I wouldn't use all of it, as much of it refers specifically to Wiccan ritual tools etc. that aren't really currently relevant to me. But the following two stanzas are relatively neutral and usable for invoking some general Wiccan-flavoured Goddess and God energies. (I've adapted the wording very slightly to appeal to me better, borrowing from several versions of the poem.)

12 January 2012

KChPh - A Formula of the Universe

Here are three things I think I can take as more or less granted:
  1. There is a universe. It is vast, and comprised of (for all practical purposes) an infinite number of entities.
  2. The nature of the universe is interaction. It is shaped through cause and effect.
  3. Individual (living) entities have a subjective consciousness.
For practical use in ritualistic contexts, I'll give these concepts fancy names in an ancient language (Greek, in this case): Kosmos (κόσμος), Chaos (χάος), and Phantasia (φαντασία). Or, because occultists love obscure formulae, KChPh for short. More discussion follows.

5 January 2012

A Handful of Truths about Religious Worship

Religious worship has been part of human nature for thousands of years. It is natural to feel drawn to worship.

The world we perceive today is vast and built on interaction, driven by cause and effect. Yet by its very nature it is indifferent, and direct response to worship is rare, or altogether non-existent.

Indirect response to worship and ritual through our own consciousness, and actions shaped by it, is undoubtedly true. But this requires dedication and practise.

Herein lies a great dilemma. Whilst perceiving value in theory, we may find it difficult in practise to worship what we recognise as merely an aspect of our consciousness.

Why is it that we perceive the contents of our minds as less real than external entities, when we are all composed of the same particles and mechanisms of cause and effect? After all, within our minds no entity is without meaning!

Is ignorance truly the key to religious experience? If this is so, we, who yearn for the spiritual yet refuse to view this world blinkered, incapable of blind devotion, are screwed.

Our subjective experience of the world is vital to us. We are both individuals and part of a larger whole, microcosms in a vast macrocosm.

Much of this should not matter. But it does.